Wednesday 2 February 2022

Agent Zaiba Investigates: The Smuggler's Secret by Annabelle Sami, illustrated by Daniela Sosa

                                                                        Link to publisher

                                                      Published by: Little Tiger, 3rd Feb 2022


The fourth book in the Agent Zaiba Investigates series is released tomorrow but, as a family, we are new to these detective books. How delighted we were to finally meet these characters. With an intriguing plot, a seaside setting and a unique historical angle to the mystery, it has all the ingredients for a classic case-cracking story. 

When Zaiba and the school history club visit an ancient shipwreck, things take a sinister turn when a precious artefact goes missing. Zaiba and the rest of her Snow Leopard Detective Agency immediately start investigating but the clock is ticking. The artefact is due to be returned to its country of origin. Can Zaiba and her agency find it in time?

The set-up of this series feels very similar to the mystery stories I read as a child, namely The Secret Seven and The Famous Five by Enid Blyton. The detectives have a strong family bond, they take themselves very seriously and the mysteries have that classic feel of smugglers, hauntings and stolen jewels. We loved the attention to detail that instantly made the characters feel vivid and well-rounded- for example, Poppy's love of historical fashion and Ali's love of puzzles-and the mystery is very well plotted but simple enough for younger readers to follow. 

The story, however, has some key differences that sets it apart from previous young mystery series we've read. Firstly, there is a lovely historical angle to the mystery, allowing the author to, not only include some incredibly interesting and authentic facts, but also to open up readers' thinking by raising important questions about the mistakes of the past. The second is Zaiba's rich family history in the art of detecting. We loved that Zaiba's Aunt Fouzia is the best detective in Pakistan and that her missing mother was a detective also. 

Using her precious Eden Lockett novels as a guide to solving her own cases, Zaiba makes for a strong, detemined and thorough detective. The novel is well-paced but also provides regular recaps so readers don't get lost in the plot. There are some great red herrings and fishy suspects and as this mystery takes place by the seaside, so much the better. Although, I've already used these words already, 'classic' and 'authentic' really do sum up this detective story. 

A big thanks to NetGalley and Little Tiger for allowing me to read a review copy. Agent Zaiba Investigates: The Smuggler's Secret is released tomorrow, 3rd Feb 2022. 

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